THE detective leading the investigation into Mark Bradbury’s murder says that the police’s task has been ‘very challenging’.

Beloved family man Mr Bradbury suffered ‘significant’ head injuries after being attacked at his home on Station Road South in Padgate.

Warrington Guardian:

But officers are uncertain of when exactly the 58-year-old was killed, with a possible lengthy period between the ‘brutal’ attack and his body being discovered making investigating the crime scene ‘very difficult’.

Mr Bradbury was last seen at his home at around 5pm on Thursday, August 1, after returning from walking his golden retriever with his brother.

It was only three days afterwards that police officers responding to reports of concern for his safety discovered that he had been killed.

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And while his death was initially treated as unexplained by officers, a murder investigation - codenamed Operation Keynotes - was only opened following a subsequent Home Office post-mortem.

Forensics experts remained on scene more than two weeks later.

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Detective inspector Sarah Oliver, who is leading the investigation into Mr Bradbury’s death, said: “It’s very difficult to establish when Mark died.

“It’s been very challenging, because it’s a significant amount of time between Thursday afternoon and Sunday afternoon.

“The crime scene is very challenging, and it’s been very difficult for staff here – it’s taken some time for us to build up that picture of Mark.”

Warrington Guardian:

Chief inspector Simon Meegan and detective inspector Sarah Oliver

Cheshire Police is treating Mr Bradbury’s suspected low-level involvement in the supply of cocaine as a key lead in tracing his killer.

DI Oliver added: “He’s got a family – he’s got a 19-year-old daughter, a brother and an elderly mother who knew nothing of his involvement in the world of drugs.

“It’s been very difficult for them to deal with – it’s always difficult for the victims of homicide victims anyway, but if you compound that with finding out that your loved one is involved in this kind of world is a double blow for them.

“Mark clearly had a very loving relationship with his daughter, and she’s absolutely devastated by the loss of her father.

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“The hope is that there are people who have been in this vicinity who have seen something – perhaps something they always see and that they are really used to, and they don’t think it’s unusual.”

Mr Bradbury was killed only metres away from where Garry Newlove was murdered in 2007 on the same street, on the other side of the subway under Birchwood Way.

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Chief inspector Simon Meegan added: “Mark was murdered in his own home, suffering head injuries during a brutal attack.

“What is normally a very quiet community will be understandably alarmed and concerned by what has happened here.

“We do believe that Mark was involved in low-level drug dealing, so we’re particularly interested in visitors to the address and any vehicles that may have been seen during that period.”

Mr Bradbury’s daughter Hannah paid tribute to her dad in the wake of the dog and sport lover’s death.

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In a statement, the teenager said: “Mark was a family man, the life and soul of every party, generous and loyal.

“Everyone who knew him is suffering from immense heartache.

“A lover of sport, dogs and his daughter, Mark will be greatly missed as he is loved.”

Warrington Guardian:

Mark Bradbury

Anyone with information is urged to contact Cheshire Police on 101, quoting incident number IML476959, or to call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.